Robot to give evidence about AI to MPs

Pepper the robot will give a demonstration to the education select committee as part of its investigation on the future role of artificial intelligence in the workplace.

Joe Lepper | 16th Oct 18

A robot that is part of a global project to use artificial intelligence to help the elderly, is to be quizzed by MPs.

Pepper, a robot that is part of a three-year international research project to use culturally aware robots to care for older people, is to appear before the Education Committee today (October 16).

The committee is looking at the fourth industrial revolution and the implications for education of developments in artificial intelligence.

It is believed that this is the first time a parliamentary select committee has heard evidence from a robot.

Pepper has been designed by Softbank Robotics and can exhibit emotions and reactions by analysing expressions and voice tones through sensors, microphones and cameras. It is already being used in a variety of workplaces, performing tasks such as greeting visitors. The robot will be appearing before MPs alongside academics from Middlesex University, which is involved in the research project.

As part of the project Pepper has also been involved in teaching primary school children, with MPs keen to understand how robots might play a part in the workplace and classrooms of the future.

“Pepper is part of an international research project developing the world’s first culturally aware robots aimed at assisting with care for older people,” says a statement from the education committee.

“The Committee will hear about her work with students across the faculties at Middlesex University, including a project involving teaching primary level children, and what role increased automation and robotics might play in the workplace and classroom of the future.”

Concerns raised about social care robots

In May, think thank Social Market Foundation said that people receiving social care should be given a guarantee that robots should be used to help with their care, rather than replace their human carers.

Its report said that robots have the potential to improve the lives of vulnerable people in need of care, as long as the technology is “properly handled.”